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Permafrost Issue 42.2

Cover Image by Isabel Miller


Featuring: 2020 New Alchemy Contest Winner – Monica Ong


I. Perseus

Mi Shebeirach for Miami; or, Magic City Lockdown – Jen Karetnik

How to Divine Poetry – Kameron Ray Morton

The Word You Should Never Say – David Starkey

/ myul /as in “a mewl of clouds” – Mary Buchinger

Xenolith – Nathaniel Youmans

Woolly – Brittney Corrigan

Free Throw Evaluation of Mom & Safety Information for a New Marriage – Ashley Memory

Words for My Daughter After Watching Her Dance to ‘Girls’ – Dante Di Stefano


II. Cassiopeia

University of Detroit: A Brief Memoir With Basketball and Poetry – Cal Freeman

Sensation Seeking Behavior – Carolyn Orosz

You and Me – Seth Gleckman

Afternoon Meditation – Natasha Deonarain

Microcosm – Grace Wagner

Colony Collapse –  R.S. Wynn


III. Draco

On the Shore of the Sea of Songs – Kelly Kiehl Davis

True Paths – Kathryn Smith

KIDS WITH NO RELIGION – Elana Lev Friedland

The Night (After Psalm 2) – James Miller

Allecto and How Great is Our God! – Casey Epstein-Gross

Another Dream of Death and Born Again in the Light of Self – Brandi George


IV. Andromeda

The Man Who Loved Cribbage – Sharon L. Dean

You Could Become Land – Rebecca Young

The Coyote – Grace Wagner

IT WAS NOBODY – Stephen Massimilla

Dream Catch – Jeff Tigchelaar

What Is It Like to Live in a Body? – Trenton Pollard


V. Pegasus

resources – Tess Fahlgren

The Manna – Tyler Wells Lynch

Prospects for Survival – Kathryn Smith

ghost tour – Patrick Kindig

Firn – Claire McQuerry

Being Afraid Isn’t Enough – Gary McDowell

Reckoning – Greg Emilio


VI. Cygnus

i loved someone who loved stupid things – Laura Brun

Black Trees Whose Names You Never Wanted to Know – Richard Widerkehr

I can’t remember if she liked broccoli – Leah White

Elevation – Alfredo Lafarga

Given – Liza Katz Duncan

Discarnate – Melanie Sevcenko

Mitosis Lullaby – Robert Evory

                    Contributor Bios

/ myul /as in “a mewl of clouds”

a poem by Mary Buchinger what calls;   plaintive;   bored; whine against the void; stricken;   suggestive; test of an audience; voiced   yearning;   flush with stripe & variation; improvised;   reedy batik; crescendo  &  apex; roams unharnessed; belies a pragmatic constitution; moody;   piecemeal   summoning of a world & its inhabitants; what is not-contentment; covert  lightning;   grating or tender; …

Afternoon Meditation

a poem by Natasha Deonarain On the convex edge of horizons, many miles across this bone-flat desert, dust pulls a Navajo blanket around her swollen belly. 200,000 years gestation and still no birth; only our uncommon let down. When will a new age begin? We’ve waited with empty stomachs for a second coming to tear …

Being Afraid Isn’t Enough

a poem by Gary McDowell How peace begins is the shadow of war, but I’ve no right to suggest it. Trenches, hunger, a drone pilot in Henderson, Nevada, 6,000 miles away. What does it mean this human betrayal? Whose throat is closed, whose is sliced open, and how do we tell their story? A man …

Black Trees Whose Names You Never Wanted To Know

     – letter to Lynn Emanuel who said, American poems are not moving a poem by Richard Widerkehr

Colony Collapse

hybrid by R.S. Wynn I remember my mother’s house before the divorce, when my father still brought order to her rooms. I remember boots aligned and blankets folded neatly on the backs of chairs, though my brother, sister, and I never squared them just so. But our father moved out and chaos filled in. We …

Contributor Bios

alpha by author’s last name Laura Brun is a poet from small-town Kentucky who lives and writes in Pittsburgh. She received her BA from USC and her MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. Her first chapbook, “It’s Alright to Be Seen,” is available from Dancing Girl Press. Her poems are most recently found or forthcoming …


a poem by Melanie Sevcenko Oh hey / I walk now / sending salutations forward on my breath / as a wish unmoored from a dried weed /my memories available only to me from an antiquated technology / The humming click of the carousel /advancing the next slide where we picnicked /unwrapped gifts / hallucinating …

Dream Catch

a poem by Jeff Tigchelaar God I’d caught one .      By far         the best I’d ever gotten .      Maybe even the first It was          absurdly large for Upper Silver .                  this tiny manmade lake in Michigan …


Fiction by Alfredo Lafarga The summit of the mountain was in view, gray and barren against the blue sky. Alex paused to catch his breath, the cold air drying out his mouth as he inhaled and exhaled rapidly. For a couple of seconds, he thought he might hyperventilate, his lungs filling with air but apparently …


hybrid by Claire McQuerry  I wake to moonlight paling joined lakes, peaks rising skyward from tattered shores towards where my plane crosses— how thin and cold the air. On looking longer I see: no, not lakes at all but snow, spilt like milk over the ridges. The boy’s name was Jason. We’d walk home after …

ghost tour

a poem by Patrick Kindig late in life, harriet beecher stowe took to stealing mark twain’s roses. she had dementia. she would drift into the conservatory, thinking it hers, & the gardeners would let her. by day, .                                    …


a poem by Liza Katz Duncan Can’t he see that our bodies are just our bodies, tied to what we know? .            –        Patricia Smith   Given the urgency with which humans run toward water, have always run toward water Given the human impulse to build at …

How to Divine Poetry

Fiction by Kameron Ray Morton The handles for the divining rods must be made of cypress wood. Preferably, the cypress knees that emerge from the swamps of Louisiana to suck up air and nutrients and look out at the world. Acquire sugar cane leaves from Jamaica with edges so sharp they can cut skin to …

I can’t remember if she liked broccoli

a poem by Leah White these thoughts blink into a day a mystery mark on a shaken etch- a-sketch— I draw & redraw her she the memory of water & the roar she the lyric from no song gone but white noise that rises up the body in between channels I write the address wrong— …

i loved someone who loved stupid things

a poem by Laura Brun ice water and greasy pizza at the mock-rustic local tavern’s weekly trivia where we’re beat every time by tall 30something dudes in t-shirts and khaki shorts, who i blame for why you scowl and bat my hand away when i try to hold yours, text me from across the table …


—.                            —After Jiménez —It was nobody. Just water.—”Nobody? So there is no body of water?”—No body is here. Just a flower.—”Nobody is here? But a flower has no body?” —Nobody is here. It was just wind.—”Nobody? The wind has no body?”—No body …


hybrid by Elana Lev Friedland Leader This is a hymn for the hymnless. .       Congregation .       Our Kesha in cosmos, hallowed be your name. Leader Put your motherfucking phones up—light ‘em up. .       Congregation .       Your spaceship come. Your will be done, on earth as it is …

Mi Shebeirach for Miami; or, Magic City Lockdown

a poem by Jen Karetnick Where the causeways inchworm through Biscayne Bay, peaking like breath, we gaze at the backdrop of blue, a hue as difficult to replicate as first love, at the cityscapes jittery with light, at the light itself, almost a physical body to embrace, it has such lurid shape. We speed in …


a poem by Grace Wagner I love the you that feels destroyed when you destroy the egg of a lizard—small jellied thing unfurling like larva when you drop it. I love the you that loves an invasive species, adopts it as your own—a young female brown anole lizard fights with the native green over territory, …

Mitosis Lullaby

a poem by Robert Evory I’m exhausted of sleep. My highway .          of nerves slowing. The moon pitches light .          behind atmosphere’s curtain. A sun explodes .          and a little girl learns to write the letter a. My cells .        …

On the Shore of the Sea of Songs

Fiction by Kelly Kiehl Davis The townspeople became aware that all was not as it should be when the Merfolk of Riverchapel began to wash up on their shores in earnest. The first wave was an anomaly – a spectacle for the children down on the shores of the Sea of Songs. The town gathered …

Prospects for Survival

hybrid by Kathryn Smith

Purple Fordbidden Enclosure

New Alchemy Winner by Monica Ong   (full color) (black and white) (close-ups)


a poem by Greg Emilio  And how, Emilio, would you have me speak? You repeat and repeat but get nowhere new. Trace me back as far into the labyrinth as you’d like, blind beast with your soft hand on the unraveling leash. Poor metaphor, expected sword double-edged but lion-beautiful, gleaming, maw-awful: breathing, just breathing. Amanuensis, …


Nonfiction by Tess Fahlgren On the farm, my family’s dogs had total freedom. They came home carrying the smells of the day: irrigation ditch, deer carcass, fresh-cut alfalfa. That’s the world our pointy brown Frankie came from, picked up a wild Montana dog at eight months old, tough and wary, her paws a bouquet of …

Sensation Seeking Behavior

a poem by Carolyn Orosz Rest into it now, dizzying— this grief for the departed. Tomato gardens, wild clover, an outdoor shower where the mosquitos hung like rain. Only isolated parts but each without boundary, static electricity just another kind of flint, and from way up here second grade looks a little silly. The unit …

The Coyote

hybrid by Grace Wagner A ten-hour shift at the Tupelo Travel Stop leaves you feeling like a pumpjack pistoning an empty well.  You take off your nametag that’s not even your name, a three-month old hand-me-down. You get in your ten-year-old Taurus. Tomorrow you’ve got a shift at the truck stop and a shift at …

The Man Who Loved Cribbage

Fiction by Sharon L. Dean   An aged man is but a paltry thing,  A tattered coat upon a stick, unless  Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing  For every tatter in its mortal dress . . .                                                William Butler Yeats   The old man lived off the grid in a shack he …

The Manna

Fiction by Tyler Wells Lynch I. It was a drought, they said, and pretty soon there’d be famine. Anyone could see that. A glimpse at our backyard would reveal an exposed hardpan stretching in every direction, its surface cracked like viral fissures where wheat once grew. They said the towns were dying, the governments volatile, …

The Night (After Psalm 2)

a poem by James Miller Will you let the spade and shovel rest together on the fermenting soil? Can you leave the onion and basil untasted on their last day? Will you unravel your lamps, and so let night come in?

The Word You Should Never Say

a poem by David Starkey

True Paths

hybrid by Kathryn Smith

Two Essays

by Ashley Memory  New Holland Service Manual for Skid-Steer Loader L-783 Safety Information for a New Marriage – Read Carefully Overview  You were already married when you met J.P. for the first time, but the bonds between you and your husband were frayed, leaving your bucket open to a diesel-powered friendship that soon roared into …

Two Poems

by Casey Epstein-Gross allecto, queen of the furies i want to make myself wild again      let foam drip from my mouth     run rabid round street corners a woman possessed has the prettiest eyes or so they say i can’t much remember how mine looked      but i imagine it was a …

Two Poems

by Brandi George  Another Dream of Death: Montana Vermiculite Contamination Now wings gather in the heavens .    no wait                 black lungs barrage the sky with fibrous edges .        they flap assault          mirages .     of vermiculite       sparks swirl …

University of Detroit: A Brief Memoir With Basketball and Poetry

a poem by Cal Freeman           The basketball players           collapsed in their red jerseys.           A thin dust fell           from the rafters. * I was born with the ponderous name John Calvin Freeman III, what father Justin …

What Is It Like to Live in a Body?

a poem by Trenton Pollard Today I could sublimate like a Finnish foggy morning, sea-ice shedding into dawn— like how when I was a boy I wanted to wake up as a woman. Everything fades at the horizon yet I’m drawn to unrealistic color in landscapes, gaudy yellow dapples on pines, lakesides crusted with turquoise. …


Fiction by Brittney Corrigan For the past three months, I’ve been in charge of the petri dishes in which we’re growing mammoth hair. Jasmine is in charge of the blood cells, and Pete from Omaha handles the fat. I labored head down like a workhorse to get into this particular grad school—even though I’m not …

Words for My Daughter After Watching Her Dance to “Girls”

a poem by Dante Di Stefano Sigil yourself inside the electric wiring of this poem. Hotwire this car, this Prius, this Ford F-150, this Tesla shot into space and tumbling toward the sun. Careen through median, ghostride this whip, do donuts around cop cruiser and hooptie alike, exceed speed limits and sway, dear girl; you …


a poem by Nathaniel Youmans A fragment surrounded by foreign material. An isolated inclusion of rock. As if to make an island nation of everything that at times finds itself surrounded by strange terrain. Terrain the visible architecture of doubt. The eroding expression of what is buried and what is buried an expression of what …

You and Me

Fiction by Seth Gleckman Sutton, New Jersey isn’t like other small towns. Sure, it has the cobblestone streets and the redbrick houses and the century-old mom and pop stores. It has the gray stone church whose single spire reaches higher into the sky than any other building in the county. And it even has the …

You Could Become Land

Nonfiction by Rebecca Young Imagine a moony night of hide-and-go-seek on your parent’s farm, your child body levitating with the joy and dread of being sought. You can hear the distant yowls and shrieks of children giving chase, but so far off, because the hay hasn’t been cut yet, and your pale, knee-burled legs have …